Midwifery-led births paused for safety review a week after Royal College of Midwives demands more investment and staff - follows Donna Ockenden Report

Midwifery-led births at the Lagan Valley hospital in Lisburn have been temporarily stopped following safety concerns about a small number of births at the unit.

By Philip Bradfield
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 6:52 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2022, 7:03 pm

The news comes after the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said that week that it was “demanding” more investment and staff for NI maternity care in the wake of “tragic” lessons emerging from across the UK.

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said today it is temporarily pausing births in the Lagan Valley Hospital’s Midwifery Led Unit.

A Trust spokeswoman said of the new Lagan Valley arrangements: “Expectant mothers will be offered alternative care, including Midwifery Led care in the Home from Home Unit in the Ulster Hospital.”

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Midwifery-led births have been paused at Lagan Valley Hospital, Lisburn,

“The South Eastern Trust is taking this precautionary action because of concerns that have been raised about a very small number of cases who have birthed in the unit. These cases are under active review and we are engaging with the families involved.

“We understand this decision may be disappointing for both staff in the unit and expectant mothers, however the Trust has taken this temporary action in the interest of patient safety, pending the outcome of these reviews.

“All expectant mothers scheduled to give birth in the Midwifery Led Unit in the Lagan Valley Hospital and all staff impacted by this temporary action are being contacted by the Trust.”

On average, eight women give birth in this unit each month.

“The Trust is unable to comment at the moment while the reviews are underway,” the spokeswoman added. “It will however provide further updates when the reviews are complete.”

The News Letter asked the Trust and oversight bodies whether the news was in any way linked to the publication of the Ockenden report 24 hours earlier, but the Trust said the move was in no way connected.

The Ockenden report concluded that catastrophic failures at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust may have led to the deaths of more than 200 babies, nine mothers and left other infants with life-changing injuries over a period of 20 years.  

Asked to elaborate on the Lagan Valley situation by the News Letter, Karen Murray, NI Director of the RCM, responded that it will be “very disappointing for women who were due to give birth on the unit but any concerns about their safety must take priority”.

She said that “safety concerns within any service must be looked at as a matter of the utmost urgency” and that it will be supporting its members in the unit through what will be “a difficult time for them”.

The News Letter also invited comment from the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the RQIA, the latter of which directed enquiries back to the Trust. The PSNI said it was not involved in the review.

Last week the RCM said it was “demanding” improvements in NI maternity care in the wake of “tragic” lessons emerging from across the UK.

The RCM warned: “We must also learn the tragic lessons that have emerged from reviews of maternity services across the UK to prevent them happening in Northern Ireland, says the Blueprint. A focus of many has been the need to improve working cultures in maternity services, and for more training involving all the professionals working in them. This will take hard work and resources but must be a priority. The RCM is already supporting initiatives to improve safety across the UK and in many areas in Northern Ireland is spearheading the work.”  

Karen Murray, RCM Director for Northern Ireland, said last week: “The pandemic has laid bare the precariousness of our maternity services. It will not take much to tip them over the edge compromising the quality of care, and there is no safety net.  That’s why Investing in staffing and resources must be a priority for the next government.

“I am appealing to every MLA elected in the coming election to put their weight behind our call and support us publicly to make our maternity services the best they can be. Midwives and their colleagues are working incredibly hard to deliver safe care for women, but we must all work together to drive up standards even further. This needs investment, it needs a clear and honest roadmap, and it needs political will and action.

“It feels like our maternity services, the women who use them and the staff working in them have been side-lined to the fringes of the NHS, with no real attention or focus on them from the Government. I fear without that much needed focus and investment we are in real danger of seeing them begin to crumble, and we simply cannot let that happen.”

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